ΓΡΑΦΕΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ ΠΡΩΘΥΠΟΥΡΓΟΥ
Ρώμη, 21 Οκτωβρίου 2013
Enrico Letta: Good evening, welcome here. I would like first of all to thank my colleague Samaras for giving me the opportunity to meet on this important day when the ceremony took place in Sicily to commemorate the victims of the tragedy in Lampedusa. During this day we are here to give answers to this tragedy, to both key issues of migration flows and the safety and security of the Mediterranean Sea.
The main issue we dealt with was to be very precise and operational starting from the main key point which is the preparation for the European council that will take place on Thursday and Friday, in order to avoid that during this council the issues would be dealt with in a superficial and generic way, while we want to face the issue of migration in a very serious way.
And secondly, we want to prepare, so to say, fine tune the following presidencies, first of all the Greek one in the first half year of 2014 and then the second half, the Italian presidency. Because we want to have a new approach of migration, of these peak issues and we know that this will be the pillar of both our presidency and of the Greek one.
We set up, that’s why, we did a joint committee that will support the presidencies starting from the conclusion of the European Council on Friday.
There are some real issues we are aiming at- first of all, during the European Council on Thursday and Friday and then of course, during the two presidencies. First of all, we want to strengthen Frontex, the agency for the cooperation of control and migration borders. Then, secondly, we want to set up and start the operation of the Eurosur which will start on the 2nd of December. Then we want to manage and deal issues concerning the right of asylum at European level and then, the fourth issue, is- you probably know- that we set up and started a humanitarian mission called “Mare Nostrum”. And, these four issues will effect strictly what happens in the countries of origin.
As far as Italy is concerned, we are particularly interested in managing Libia, that is to say in the past, these policies concerning Libia were not dealt with as it should have been due to institutional reasons. But, then, of course, we want to continue seriously to control, first of all the migration flows, and, secondly, the shores of the Mediterranean. We’ll particularly consider these two issues first of all in Brussels next Thursday and Friday and then during the whole 2014. But, as I already said, the Eurosur will start on December the 2nd – that is the reason why our humanitarian mission “Mare Nostrum” will end on that day.
It is obvious that we will deal with other important issues during the European Council. Another important issue is the common market of telecommunications and we want to push so that this will be established. Secondly, we want to enforce and apply the bank union, that is the priority we both aim at. We`ll do that during both European Councils in October and December, we want to enforce decisions we took in June. But, as I said, we mainly concentrated on migration issues particularly on this day when we solemnly commemorate the tragedy that took place in Lampedusa. Of course, we want, particularly on this day, give precise answers to those who particularly bear political responsibilities – have to give clear and real answers.
Antonis Samaras: I would like to say that I’m particularly happy and delighted to meet the Italian Prime Minister, my good friend, Enrico Letta. During our last meeting in Athens in July we had decided to work closely together, in the face of those two consecutive presidencies our countries are going to hold next year. Greece in the first semester and Italy in the second.
Today, the Prime Minister is right, we discussed mainly the pressing issue of illegal migration together with the other pressing issue as is the case of youth unemployment, which is very important for both our countries and which create a huge challenge for the whole of the European Union. Illegal migration as far as I’m concern is more than simply a problem, a challenge. It has now become a real threat.
All these unfortunate people pay a very high price not simply for their lives but also a price to the traffickers. Some of them loose their lives in the process. Most of them end up in some cost, either in the Greek islands, in the Aegean or in Cyprus or in Malta or in Southern Italy and they get trapped there. They don’t go back, they don’t move any further. And some people see human tragedy only when there is an incident, like this terrible incident in Lampedusa. But the truth is that even when those people end up in safe cost we have a human tragedy.
These people have no past, they have no future, they have no destination, they have nowhere to go and this is a real tragedy and I believe we have to awaken our partners on this. In many cases of course, as we just discussed, they come from war ridden third countries. In other instances, they just come from countries with economic problems but in all cases this is a destabilizing procedure, because we cannot absorb them on the one hand nor can we allow them to move further up in the European North. There are many aspects we should bring on the surface. The Prime Minister mentioned a few, like burden sharing, responsibility sharing, which is very important, establishing legal identification procedures, proclaiming the criminal character of human trafficking in the most profound way, readmission policies, FRONTEX, as the Prime Minister mentioned, and most importantly we must do all this in a humane, in a European humane manner. Because so far, I think that we are failing on this front. Europe is supposed to be the beacon of hope and the freedom of humanitarian values. And instead of bringing stability and prosperity to its near neighborhood, it is a neighbor that brings instability through the European borders.
So, I am happy that this problem will become, this whole issue will surface as a top priority in both the Greek and the Italian Presidency’s of next year. We must make sure, as we said inside Enrico that this topic should not divide the Europeans. In the contrary, it should all bring us together. And this is the way we should be as European. So, I am very happy we decided to have this joint committee and this Friday should be a bridge with the December Summit and the two Presidencies of next year, as the Prime Minister just explained. And we should let everyone know that we are not dragging our feet with bureaucratic procedures. We mean business and we should all be united doing this effort that we have to make.
So, to finish I want to say that I am very happy to have this unique opportunity at this unique moment with my Italian homologue to prove that Europe can address those problems decisively and efficiently. And I am particularly comforted by the fact that Italy and its Prime Minister can take the lead and help us make the difference. I want to thank you Mr. Prime Minister, Caro Enrico tiri gracio bella nostra collaborazione e la nostra anisitsi.
Question: I have a couple of quick questions for the President Samaras. The first question is: are all issues related to immigration the same between Greece and Italy and Malta for example, or are any specific issues related to immigration that Greece has to face? And speaking of this, my second question is about the case of this young girl found in this Roma camp. Is there a serious problem of child trafficking inside the Roma community in Greece and are all recent police raids in this camp related to this issue? Thanks.
Antonis Samaras: Well, I ‘ll start from the second part. I believe, and this is part of the way my government works, that everybody should be aware of a problem that exists. We had heard many things about these issues, so the police was there and by looking in different places they found out that this child who was not looking like the others was obviously a case to consider. So, the only thing I can tell you as a piece of news maybe for you, will be that we have sent for DNA in all the police of all the world, so that they can make the procedure easier for everyone who thinks that there is some possible relationship between the little girl and her parents. And we are trying to make the outmost for this little girl to- you know- have a nice, comfortable, helpful life for the remaining part of this tragedy she is going through.
As far as the first part of the question is concerned, yes, I think that we all consider the problems to be common. The idea is to bring about those problems and to make everyone not simply understand, rationalize but also feel the great political and humane importance, which is really a tragedy for Europe. It will be a tragedy for Europe if we do not solve this problem. So, I think that yes, maybe some differences might occur, maybe some differences will pop out, I haven’t seen any differences with Italian Prime minister nor with my colleague this morning from Malta. But I believe that through this join committee we will be able to discern the essential from the trivial problems and go ahead with the essential ones.
Question: The question is for both Prime Ministers. According to all forecasts, Greece has reached our annually primary surplus for the year 2013 and also Greece achieves fiscal targets and also Greece makes huge progress at the structural form level. At the Eurogroup statement on November 27th 2012 there is a paragraph, allow me to mention it: The Eurogroup member states will consider further measures and assistance for achieving a further credible and sustainable reduction of Greek debt. I would like to ask you both if this kind of statement is a commitment for the members of the EU area or there are second thoughts. And I would like to ask you also if this commitment will be fully implemented and when. Thank you.
Enrico Letta: For what I am concerned, we think that for the debt, for the general debt, there is absolutely the need to give important signals to the markets, we just passed the budget law for the year 2014, and the Parliament will start a discussion on the budget just tomorrow and in this discussion for the budget due to some privatizations we will reach next year for the first time after five years of crisis, the first reduction of the general debt. So I think, I am sure , that the general debt has to be put under control but of course what is absolutely needed, in my view, are the conditions for growth, because it is impossible to cut and to take under control deficits and debt, if there are no conditions for growth. So what I think both we want to build next year will be a European Union in with the growth word will be the pillar of our political activity and of our policies, because if not, it will be absolutely impossible to manage the crisis and manage our budgets.
Question: Excuse me for interrupting but the question concerns especially Greece, because the Eurogroup statement of November 27th in 2012 it was a statement concerning Greece and the Greek problem. Thank you.
Enrico Letta: Yes, for what I am concerned, I know that premier Samaras is doing all his best and I think the results Greece is reaching and the achievements that Greece is reaching are very important for Greece but are very important for us too. I am not European Commission so it’ s not my job to give evaluations on that, but my political evaluation is a very positive one about all the steps the Greek government is doing and the Greek society also is doing. It is very important that all sacrifices they have to be followed by steps, step by step, to important achievement in what is linked of course stability, job creation and fiscal situation. So I think we are very much engaged in working for next year growth pillar activity and European Union.
Antonis Samaras: I’d like to add to this that first of all I fully agree that the growth orientation is the most important path for everyone in Europe especially for countries that had crisis, the way that Greece had. Six consecutive years of recession. We have lost more than 25% of our GDP. If you add to these taxes and inflation, the average disposable income of the average Greek has gone down by something like 40%. Therefore, this is a real sacrifice. And despite the situation, I would like everyone to know in Italy that we are reaching this year a primary surplus which is indicative of what Enrico just said of the success in these results after those huge sacrifices. So when you have a primary surplus after all those years and when you have gone through incredible fiscal new orientation and consolidation and structural changes then I believe that we can say that we have delivered and once we have delivered, to answer your question immediately in terms of the November decision taken, we expect what is only rational, that our lenders will also believe. And I think they would.
Question: I have two questions concerning the immigration- the first according to the operation “Mare Nostrum”. After the initialization of the operation and the press conference, comes up the question if Libia can be considered a secure port. I have heard the testimonies of Lampedusa, and I don`t think so. But, I would like to know, from the moment you talked about concrete answers, if the Italian government considers Libia a secure port. Today`s ceremony, unfortunately does not concern only ones who are alive. There were many disputes on that matter. Could this matter have been managed in a better way?
Enrico Letta: Concerning this issue, I have been here the whole afternoon and I didn’t have the chance to follow all the disputes, I will be informed concerning that matter….As far as Libya is concerned, the matter of Libya is for us (it’s different in comparison with the Greek situation). The matter of institution building in Libya today is an essential matter. We will work in this direction strongly we do not want, we won`t accept from the Libyan authorities half answers or insufficient answers. It is evident that we intend to be very strong concerning the coasts of Libya. It has to do with a technical question that I don`t want to answer for the moment. But, I tell you this- for us, the supervision of the sea does not concern only the supervision of the sea around Lampedusa- it also means go there and confirm that the Libyan authorities assume their responsibilities. We will work so that the Libyan cost will be supervised from our ships, in collaboration with the Libyan authorities, if there is no spirit of collaboration we will work in a manner that will protect our interests too.
Question: I have the same question for both Prime Ministers and I have to go back to the illegal immigration. So, are you waiting concrete results from Europe due to the E.U Presidency about solving these problems? Are you optimistic?
Enrico Letta: Personally I am a realistic, because I think we have to be very strong in asking for the next European Council, Thursday and Friday, to be very- very concrete, in discussing the main issues on the migration problems, first of all in the Mediterranean Sea and of course creating a bridge since the October council to the December council, because of course in October we will have the first discussion, we had at the level of former first ministers a first discussion in Luxembourg, some two weeks ago but we need to arrive in December council with some concrete steps and some achievements.
We would like to cover with a bridge that will arrive to our two presidencies all the year 2014. So I am realistic too and I hope that our common work and our common interest to manage such a crucial topic will create conditions to change the migration policies at European level, to avoid any tragedies as the one we had in Lampedusa and of course to have a different approach to the problem. Helping our two countries, and all the countries, the border countries, to manage in a different way with some sort of burden sharing this topic that is today very- very difficult to manage without the European solidarity.
Antonis Samaras: I simply agree with the Prime Minister and I have to say that we simply have to try make the necessary efforts pave the way for a successful conclusion, allow a pragmatic, as the Prime Minister said, realistic timetable to take place, present the necessary arguments, the necessary facts that have both a humane element, but also an element of creating importance to everyone which has to do with rationalizing our seas and one of the things that we will be doing as a common one year presidency with all the potential synergies that we will have together and this is very important is to activate everything we can in order to address these issues for a common European Policy. Because if you really want to know what is missing, the element that is missing is a common European Policy. And so it can not come immediately but we are starting now. And this is very important because these are important countries in the South and they have between them a synergy. And synergistic effects are very important.